The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Why I Date

April 25, 2010

Why I Date

Honest confession: when I tell Christians that I am actively and regularly going on dates with different people, sometimes concurrently, I cringe a little inside because I think they will judge me. I picture them looking at me and thinking, "Oh, this woman does not trust God to bring her a spouse. Look, she's dating. ALOT OF PEOPLE AT ONCE." I imagine them shaking their heads, wanting to say to me that I should be patient, that I shouldn't be "looking," "searching," "pursuing" or whatever other synonym that can be used for "desperate." Clearly, all of this just goes on in my head. No one who knows and loves me has ever insinuated once that I'm desperate, or that this kind of casual, getting-to-know-you by going to coffee or drinks is unhealthy, bad, or worse, unbiblical.

To be clear, I'm by no means the Harlot of West LA. It's not as if there's a line of men pounding down my door, asking me out. But they do come around, and they do ask, and I do go. I go without knowing them very well. I go without knowing if there'll be a connection. I go without any clue at all whether they are "The One." I sometimes even go without knowing where they really stand on Jesus. And, wait for it... sometimes I go out with them AGAIN. I go with the mindset that it's coffee, I don't know them very well, and if they are weird, I'll just drink the coffee really, really fast and then leave. Or if I'm weird, they'll drink THEIR coffee really, really fast and then leave.

There's not supposed to be a lot of emotional investment with dating like this, and it's supposed to be a lot of fun. No one is supposed to be taking their clothes off, and everyone is supposed to be able to back away at any time, no harm, no foul. Supposedly.

I'm finding dating to be a perilous proposition that leaves me feeling like Goldilocks, on the quest for 'just right' -- not too young, not too old, not too fat, not too thin, just the right kind of Christian. Just the right 'fit' if you will. This fit, like the porridge of just the right temperature, the bed of the right softness and the chair of just the right size, is pretty elusive. Everyone has an opinion about 'just right.' There are schools of thought that claim, you'll just know when it's 'just right,' other schools of thought that say there is no such thing as 'just right' and yet other schools of thought that insist I shouldn't settle for anything less than 'just right.' What everyone can agree on, however, is that no one quite knows how to get to 'just right' or even 'close enough.' So like Goldilocks, I'm left to taste a few porridges too hot, or too cold, and sit in a few chairs too big or too small. But since I am also a follower of Christ, I guess I won't be trying out any beds anytime soon.

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears traditionally ends in one of two ways - Goldilocks runs from the Three Bears' house, terrified, never to return. Or Goldilocks ends up being eaten by the bears. And sometimes, I feel like Goldilocks - wanting to flee from dating, screaming and terrified, never to return. Other times, dating does feel remarkably like being mauled by bears. In light of all this terror, why then do I date?

Because I would like to eventually to be married. Sure, there are some people who never need to date and their future spouse just shows up in their circle one day and they "just know" he/she is the one. We love those people and wish them well. We also hate those people for setting up an impossible fairy tale that leaves the every day guy/gal disappointed when Mr/Miss Right doesn't just show up.

Because I don't want to marry the UPS guy (although the one that comes to my office IS awfully cute). Or the Fedex guy. Or the mail man. And those are the only dudes who are going to show up at my door if I don't just get out there, meet people, and go on dates. In many ways, dating is just a practical way to get to know more guys. Besides, I don't have the money to keep ordering from Amazon anyway.

Because there are only five (ok, maybe seven) single men in who are age appropriate in my circle of friends and I've already had a relationship with one of them. And it didn't end well. And they all know each other, some of them are even close friends. I'm the queen of being open and honest and all, but that is just too weird. Besides, I don't want to see any of my exes dating one of my friends, so I think I'll spare everyone the awkwardness of that and move on to another pool of people.

Dating is highly entertaining. Oh. My. God. It is fall down, rolling on the floor, laughing your ass off funny. The situations I find myself in defy all sense, logic, and sometimes, even the boundaries of personal hygiene. Friends look at me in wide-eyed wonderment and ask, "How do you get into these situations?" What can I say? Absurdity follows me where ever I go. And, as I always like to say, "At least it'll be a good story." And boy, do I have some good stories.

Dating exposes me to different types of people and increases my compassion for those around me. Alright, sometimes. Sometimes, I'm just stunned with incredulity at the sheer assinineness of the human population, men and women alike. Dating, however, challenges me to exercise compassion far more often. I'm reminded that my dates are people - with their own set of heartaches, brokenness, pain, and histories. I actually find myself asking the question: What Would Jesus Do? What would Jesus say to the young man who says to me that he used to be a believer once and Christianity just wasn't working? What would Jesus say to the not-so-young man who offered to show me the delights of losing my virginity and then in the next breath also admitted that he no longer trusts his own judgement because he'd been burned so badly before? Would Jesus scream, "Get thee behind me Satan?" Or would He offer compassion and thoughtful discussion? Would He tell a parable? I don't really know.

Dating teaches me to stand up for myself, when to say yes and when to say no (and sometimes even, HELL NO). If I've learnt nothing but this, it'd be worth it: I need to stand up for myself. Not in the selfish, me only, my needs, my wants, my desires kind of way. But more in the if someone says something about you or believes something about you that is blatantly untrue, it is very important to kindly, and clearly state your case and then hold your ground. Because at the end of the day, no one can truly know your heart except you and your Maker. Dude Over There can never truly know your heart - even if he were the greatest Christian in the world. Why? Because he isn't you. And most importantly, HE ISN'T GOD.

Dating triggers areas where I still have emotional baggage and gives me the opportunity to examine and deal with my issues of rejection, body image, and judgement. There's nothing more sobering than realizing that while I fear that men reject me because I'm not slim enough, or pretty enough, I sometimes do the same thing by rejecting guys who, at first glance, aren't all that physically attractive. Also sobering - the realization that if I chose to, I could spend the rest of my life never quite letting anyone into the deepest, most vulnerable parts of my heart for fear that they will reject me when they see just what goes on in there. That sort of a life would be safe, peaceful even. But it certainly would be incredibly lonely.

Sometimes, dating shows me that it's impossible for everyone to like me, and that's ok. This one is a hard pill to swallow, especially if the reason someone doesn't enjoy me is innate to who I am, such as the way I meander around topics to look at every angle, or my sense of childlike wonder about the world. Or because I like puppets. You'd be surprised at the number of people who find my love of puppets bizarre. And creepy. The hardest part for me is that this kind of rejection feels so much like a rejection of my person-hood - who God made me to be. What I've had to learn is that it's not that I'm unlikeable in general, it's just that I'm not likable to that particular person. And one person (or two, three, four, or five) does not the entire world make.

And because, sometimes in dating, you meet very hot drummers who, with nothing more than one look, remind you that it's possible to feel fun, sexy, and feminine again. And you get to ride in their very big, very loud, very old, classic cars with a subwoofer under the passenger seat. And really, who wouldn't like that?

Why don't I date?

Because it can be exhausting to open your life to strangers on a regular basis. It's not as if I share all my deepest, darkest secrets with a person the first time I meet them, but I've often shared things I'm passionate about on a first date. Again, it's scary to do so, because even in the most basic ways, I'm putting some of my heart out there for someone to accept or reject. It's perfectly appropriate and very advisable to be yourself when dating, but boy is it a challenge to show who you really are to strangers on a regular basis.

Because sometimes dating is like having Grandstand Seating at the Parade of Wierdos. Pay attention, men and women: whomever told you that it was appropriate to write long emails about how you two were "meant to be" before you've even met, needs to be fired. Also inappropriate: declaring your undying love after a first date. Over e-mail. With no sign of a second date. Please also do not ask, 45 minutes into the first date, how do you like me? Because you will not like hearing the truth, which is, "I like you as much as I can in 45 minutes of knowing you" or worse, "Actually, I don't like you that much right now." And whatever you do, please, please, please don't lick. Now, to be fair, I have probably marched in a few Parade of Wierdos of my own. So I'm not judging here. I'm saying, there's a lot of strange characters out there.

Dating, for all it's fun and games, has an immensely dark side. Sometimes, dating exposes me to those who have a specific agenda, who want things from me that I don't want to give. And I'm not even talking about the "All guys want is to sleep with you" cliche. There are some out there who want to pull emotion and information from me, without ever showing the same level of exposure themselves. There are others who don't listen, or respect my requests, those whose prime concern is their satisfaction, at a cost to mine. There are still others who want to move emotionally too fast for my comfort level and are insulted by my hesitation. In those times, I feel tossed around like a Raggedy Anne Doll. Those people are frightening to me. In dating, I meet these people more often than I like. It reminds me that the world IS a harsh and cruel place, and that as much as I hate it, I need to be wary.

Sometimes, I look at my life as it is, and it seems perfectly fine. I have all the freedom in the world to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I have friends who love me, a God who loves me, and a life that has infinite possibilities. Given this scenario, do I really need to be married? It's not like I live in the era of Charlotte Bronte, where single women are doomed to being a governess in a damp, English countryside manor and eventually die of tuberculosis. I have a job, I have a 401K, with some planning, I don't really need a man for economic comfort, or social safety. In fact, adding a man into the equation may very well cause my well-planned, well-developed life to fall apart. Gasp in horror all you want, single or married, you know the thought has crossed your mind before. In this day and age, marriage is a choice. And if I'm perfectly honest with myself, there are some days I could very well choose not to be married.

And now I turn the question to you, why do you date? And why don't you?


Jennifer said...

Well, I do not date because I am already married. Unless you count the dates I go on with my spouse, of course, which thankfully are now becoming more frequent and even a bit adventurous at times. Who knows--before long maybe we will stay out clubbing until 6 a.m. just like the old days! ;-)

But back before I had a spouse, I think I fell more into the "not dating" category--not because I didn't think it would be fun, but because I have always been more comfortable (perhaps way TOO comfortable) investing myself heavily in one person than just a little in a bunch of people. I liked the baby steps of dating--the flirting, the going out with a bunch of friends until you discover somehow you are pairing off with one, and yes, since I started dating my spouse in high school, the note passing. But the idea of putting myself out there by dating lots of guys was always terrifying to me. I think I would have invested too much of myself in relationships like that, and if I would have done the whole dating scene thing, I don't think anything would be left of me after passing so much of myself on to so many others. But that says something about my unhealthiness back then, perhaps, more than it says about your question.

I for one love hearing your dating stories, and it seems like you are learning things about yourself in the whole process--getting stronger, more secure--which is awesome. If dating can help you grow in those ways, then long live dating for you! (Until you find that exact right guy, of course, which is another whole discussion....)

Katharine said...

love reading this!